Yesterday night, Michael Jackson the so-called “King of Pop” was finally laid to rest some 70 days after his death. In death as in life he was surrounded by controversy. CNN reports:
Jackson’s burial may lay to rest some of the mystery and controversy that erupted with his sudden death on June 25.
His large family was divided over where the superstar’s final resting place should be, but matriarch Katherine Jackson settled on a crypt inside the well-guarded and ornate Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, California.
Jackson has always as controversial as he was popular, though in recent years the controversy outweighed the popularity by no small amount. Even now speculation swirls about the cause of his death with the LA Coroner’s office recently declaring his death a “homicide.”
The coroner announced last week that he had ruled Jackson’s death a homicide. A summary of the coroner’s report said the anesthetic propofol and the sedative lorazepam were the primary drugs responsible for the singer’s death. Los Angeles police detectives have not concluded their criminal investigation and no one has been charged.
It is a sad thing when someone dies; certainly it is a significant event when a person of such celebrity as Michael Jackson dies. But it is a telling event as well about how the culture itself celebrates such a person or marks their passing. While I will not comment on Michael’s death nor his life (in honor of my commitment not to speak ill of the dead), I will say that the re-writing of history upon death is a trend I think we ought to leave behind.
No one lives an unscathed life. But there are many lives of exemplary service and benefit to mankind beyond entertainment, which was after all Jackson’s chief contribution to society. Despite all of our rhetoric, we do not really care much about the things that matter. We care about celebrity, gossip, identifying with some cause; all of these means by which we make ourselves feel bigger and more important.
In the end though, Michael Jackson is just one more corpse rotting in the grave. One more of billions waiting to meet his Maker. By attaching more meaning to his death than to that of some obscure villager in western China, or some elderly nun in a convent, we perhaps hope to make our own lives more than they are.
The currently raging health care debate is in some ways about the constant human struggle to face down death itself. And I believe that in the death of Michael Jackson many see their own mortality looming before them, Baby Boomers especially for whom he was an iconic figure. As boomers move into retirement age they are realizing that no amount of cosmetic changes, or healthy eating, or whole grain foods will stop the date with death. And it is that realization that flows just beneath the surface and makes the conversation about health care so potent.